Are your activities scheduled around - and limited by - your feeding schedule? Are you feeding multiple times throughout the day and night? If so, consider yourself a prisoner of feeding (POF)!
Is there a way to free yourself? Absolutely! You will be happier and your herd will love you for it. More relaxed herd = more relaxed guardians and vice versa.
For most of us, we become a POF because we don't want our beloved equines to be overweight or without forage for an extended period of time. And so the multiple feedings begin! I too was a POF: getting up early to feed in the morning, making sure I was home to feed lunch, and feeding late in the evening hours (horses only sleep 3-4 hours throughout a 24 hour period).
What inspired me to write this article? Answering questions and hearing comments from our awesome customers! Most of us cannot comprehend our horse or herd maintaining a healthy weight without limiting access to forage for periods of time. But there is another way.
What I share below I learned through four decades of trial and error. You get to skip straight to the good stuff. And if you want to learn more, feel free to check out How to Introduce & Incorporate Free-Choice Forage: An Action Plan - my calculated personal approach to slow-fed, free choice forage.
My Personal POF Journey & Learning Curve
Eating More & Not Gaining Weight?
Why? Certainly a variety of reasons including, but not limited to:
Pictured is the Standard Hay Pillow slow feeder; my first Hay Pillow invention.
The Missing Link - Not Considering the Whole Horse (Mentally & Physically)
What made the difference? What had I been missing all those decades ago? Scientifically speaking, my horses were fed an appropriate diet and calories for optimum health while maintaining a healthy weight. But they were stressed - and I was stressed.
In hindsight, I was ignoring the physical and mental aspects of an herbivore and the direct results from the lack of forage. Mental and physical experiences are synonymous in that each has an influence on the other.
Is Lack of Forage Stressful?
Absolutely, at least it was for my horses. How do I know?
Imagine...Breaking Free, Guilt Free
You, too, can free yourself - and your horses. Imagine:
Take Home Message
If your horse is not a healthy weight - consider, in addition to diet and routine exercise:
Scientifically, my horses were "fine" without free choice forage. Yet after researching the equine anatomy and witnessing their reaction when I arrived to the barn to feed, I knew I could do better.
Yes, I spent time improving their diet, but the peace of mind I have is priceless. The results of my journey are also scientific in that my horses daily intake exceeded what was considered the optimum/appropriate amount of forage and yet they maintained a healthy body weight.
In addition, the only vet bills I've had are yearly dental visits and an occasional chiropractic adjustment. I am not insinuating in any way that free choice forage will prevent or cure any and all sicknesses or diseases. Certainly, minimizing stress factors and addressing diet enables the immune system to function more effectively. I do know my horses are happier and healthier regardless and I'm no longer a POF. It only took me 42 years to get there!
More Helpful Slow Feed Resources
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About the Author:
Monique Warren invented the Hay Pillow® slow feeder and is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc.
Warren has been an equine guardian for over forty years and slow-feed advocate for over 10 years. She contributes equine nutrition and digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, Horse Back Magazine, The Horse's Hoof, and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.
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